Music Education Amidst Uncertainty

Music education matters. We cannot say it more plainly than this. And Music Matters (2nd edition) gives amble evidence for why this is the case.

The profession matters when things in the world seem to be going smoothly. However, the profession matters even more when things in the world seem to be difficult and challenging. Why? Because when we engage in the teaching and learning of music, we provide avenues and pathways that can help us understand ourselves and each other.

These below highlighted GRAMMY award-winning music educators know the above to be true. And they provide important reminders for why we need to “show up” for each other each and every day.

Regardless of how many years you’ve been a music educator–1 year, 15 years, or 30 years–we are ALL first-year teachers again this school year. Let us harness this uncertainty and remember what’s most important: Being present for each other through music making.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Given the current state of the world, Mother’s Day this year feels very different. For the most obvious reason: We are physically separated. Still, this actual distance does not necessarily mean distant. So, let’s celebrate moms; especially those beyond our reach.

Music Making Hope

In our previous Music Matters blogs we’ve discussed and shown many ways that music is employed and deployed to express or mirror the problems and triumphs in our worlds, to question the status quo, and to bring people together in their hopes for change.

Today, in the midst of the horrible coronavirus pandemic, people everywhere have a crying need to feel united, to express their pain, to hope, and to fight for a better tomorrow.

Music is at the center of all these universal human needs. For example, the Academy of Country Music Awards was aired on a CBS special online, social-distance broadcast called Our Country. This live-streamed event not only showcased some of today’s great country music performers, it offered a chance for audiences to join in solidarity through song, and to thereby be comforted and uplifted.

In what ways are current artists singing about present circumstances? Consider some of the following online concerts, performances, and social media “thank yous” through music.

In another example, “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free” – written by Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas – is a one of many songs that propelled the Civil Rights Movement. But how might it now embody the needs of the great cross-section of people in the grips of the current plague? Nina Simone most famously covered this track in the 1960s, and throughout her career as a jazz legend. Numerous artists past and present also performed this moving tribute to freedom. Consider the following versions of this song and the many different ways it “means” to/for people, right here and now.

And there are more examples of music making connections across quarantined spaces.

And these youngsters in Africa dance and showcase their courage and strength and hope. Let us keep hope alive through music.

Once More: Music Matters Because People Matter

We are living in trying times. Around the globe, people are isolated, panicked, quarantined, unwell, and uncertain about what tomorrow may or may not bring. Despite this, and regardless of social distancing, there are wonderful stories that showcase the unification of spirit and soul. And many such stories include music making and sharing from professionals and amateurs alike.

As experienced via Twitter, Yo Yo Ma stated and shared the following:

Similarly in Italy, and even though the country is on lock-down, people nationwide are coming to their windows to sing. Yes, sing! Singing for those who are at “ear’s length,” singing for themselves, and singing for all of us around the world to communicate that hope and joy are ever-present in the hearts and minds of those confined at home.

 

Also, like the above-mentioned model of Yo Yo Ma, and in order to provide comfort and solace in their community, two young Ohio cellists serenade on the front porch of a quarantined neighbor.

Speaking of confined at home, for public and private school students who are no longer be able to perform school concerts, performances, and musical theater productions, Broadway star Laura Benanti called such students to share their songs with her via social media.

We could provide dozens and dozens more examples where people are coming together via social media through music making and sharing. Let’s not forget music’s potential power to unite, communicate, and transform for good. Even when we are seemingly on our own, we are united and can be even closer. Indeed, while at home practicing social distancing, Pink treats us with her rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love.” As she stated via Instagram: “Free concert slash piano lessons from my heart to yours … To make you feel my love 😍 rehearsals.”

Let’s remember we are responsible for one another, even at a distance…

 

 

Music Education Matters

Last post, we raised the previously asked question: Why might music education matter?  This is a difficult question, especially when attempting to answer it quickly. Because of this, the entire book, Music Matters, examines many of the answers to this important question.

Still, regardless of how difficult it is to answer this complex question, we need to continue to seek out answers. Because of that, take note of this story:

Music Provides Place To Belong In Middle School

Why Might Music Education Matter? Yes, We’re Asking Again

Why might music education matter? We’ve asked this question before. And it’s a serious question that every music educator should ask and answer multiple times every single day.

So, why might music education matter? In previous blog posts, we have noted that added-value claims like “music makes us smarter” and “music improves tests scores” are problematic for lots of reasons. We won’t go into that again now.

However, what we do know for sure is this: “Happiness” matters! More carefully stated: How you feel impacts how you do! So, it’s not that music makes us smarter. Musical experiences – of many different kinds – can impact students positively in many different ways. Therefore, if/when students are positively “tuned” through active music making and listening, they tend to do more things “better.”

So, what seems to propel students’ improved performance in schools—including the ever-dulling experience of “test taking”—is being in a positive state, which can result from many forms of stimulation during the time it takes to complete cognitive tests. As the eminent researcher, Ellen Winner says:

It turns out that if they [test takers] prefer to listen to a Stephen King story, and you let them listen to a Stephen King story, they also do better and rate themselves as more positively aroused. This is entirely consistent with what many cognitive psychologists have shown: that being in a state of positive arousal [or flow experience] improves performance on cognitive tests.

Logically, then, if students are engaged in something they deem to be positive, they are more likely to want to participate in whatever “it” is, both inside and outside of school. So, it makes perfect sense when Brian Kisida, an assistant professor of public affairs at the University of Missouri’s Truman School, says:

For many kids, finding something you like in school makes you want more of it, and as students got more exposure to the arts, they felt better about school.

Take away message: Allow students to experience joy of many kinds. And importantly, we don’t teach the arts in schools so students will do better on tests. We teach the arts in schools so students will experience personal, artistic, social, empathetic, and ethical growth and fulfillment; health and well-being for oneself and others; social capital; self-efficacy and self-esteem; happiness for oneself and others; and a means of engaging positively with/for one’s community and the world.

Kodi Lee

It’s clear that we believe that music matters. And every day we’re reminded, again and again, how we’re not alone in this widely-held view.

And while we can argue about the merit – or not – of a show like “America’s Got Talent,” the following case about music’s significance in the lives of people was found there.

As reported on CNN, among other news channels and online media outlets, pianist and singer Kodi Lee shows how much music matters to him and to his mom through his rendition of “A Song For You.”

Rather than go into all the benefits and “goods” this mother and son experience from music making and listening and sharing, we’ll let this musicing speak for itself.